HONOR FLIGHT: The Women Who Served

WASHINGTON, DC – It's been a long journey for a retired military nurse living in Henry County.

"Whether you agree with the war or not, I felt like 'If the men had to be there fighting it, somebody needed to be there to take care of them'," said Donna Johnson, a retired veteran who took part in the inaugural Quad City "Honor Flight" for Vietnam veterans.

The Honor Flight offers an airline trip to Washington, DC for a daylong tour of monuments like the Vietnam Veterans memorial, the World War II memorial, and Arlington National Cemetery.

Donna Johnson is among the first women veterans to take the tour.   She served in Vietnam as an Army nurse from 1966 to 1967.

"It makes you realize that every life is precious", she said.

On this day, Donna's journey takes her to Arlington National Cemetery's Women in Military Service Memorial,

"And it's women of all wars, not just Vietnam," she says while walking toward the monument.

"It's for all wars."

And it's a memorial that's long overdue.

Dedicated in 1997, just 19-years ago, the memorial is visited by 200-thousand people each year.

Arlington National Cemetery is hallowed ground for the American serviceman, but the American servicewoman as well.  So many women are discounted for their role in the military.  There were 11,000 American women in Vietnam alone.

And Air Force Brigadier General Wilma Vaught is one of those 11-thousand.

A military trailblazer, it was Vaughn who led the effort to create this memorial to women in the military.   And on this day, she made it a point to meet Donna Johnson of Woodhull, Illinois.

"But you were the ones who did the most," Gen. Vaughn tells Donna.

And now those stories are being told.

For Donna, this journey ends in a darkened room where you can type your name into an existing registry listing the thousands of profiles of military women.

And Donna's picture is one she's rightfully proud to show.    It's a picture of her with a young child clutching on to her side.

"On our days off, we would go into the villages and take care of the Vietnamese people, especially the children."

It's a side of the war that should not be forgotten by history.    Nor should we forget a woman like Donna Johnson, who will never forget her service to others.

"Every soldier is somebody's son, somebody's husband, somebody's brother."